Taking action: Parent of VHS football player files lawsuit

Paul Leavy | Special to the TimesThe Valdosta High defense swarms a ball carrier during a game against Northside Oct. 30, 2020 at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.

VALDOSTA –– The mother of a Valdosta High football player ruled ineligible is taking legal action against the Georgia High School Association.

Shafreda Hall, mother of Valdosta High football player Ty'Li Lewis, has filed a lawsuit against the GHSA as a result of Lewis being one of the five Wildcats to be ruled ineligible for the 2021 season.

In June 2020, Lewis enrolled as a student at Valdosta High School as a junior.

The suit claims that Hall signed an "undue influence form," which verifies that Lewis was not influenced to enroll at Valdosta.

As a junior, Lewis recorded 84 tackles for the Wildcats and garnered attention from colleges with his senior year left to play.

Following the 2020 season, Valdosta City Schools Superintendent Dr. William Todd Cason and Valdosta City Schools Athletic Director Reginald Mitchell were made aware of the now-infamous recorded conversation between former Valdosta Touchdown Club director Michael "Nub" Nelson and head coach Rush Propst made on May 16, 2020, that purportedly detailed instances of recruiting violations connected to the Valdosta Wildcats football program.

Lewis was not mentioned by name on the recording and Hall maintains that her son was never recruited to attend Valdosta High School or play football for the Wildcats.

The lawsuit claims that "the GHSA did not have and does not have any evidence supporting its allegation that Lewis was recruited to play football for Valdosta High School."

On April 8, GHSA Executive Director Dr. Robin Hines issued a penalty letter to Valdosta High School with sanctions that ruled Lewis and four other players ineligible for the 2021 season. The sanctions also included a $7,500 fine –– $1,000 for each ineligible player and $2,500 for a lack of administrative control.

Valdosta High School appealed the GHSA's decision on April 19 but the petition was unanimously denied. The school filed a final appeal on May 4 and the ruling was again denied, upholding the sanctions.

Hall's suit suggests that the GHSA failed to comply with and breached its own appeal procedures when it ruled that Lewis was ineligible to participate in GHSA sanctioned activities for one calendar year. The suit also claims that the GHSA did not afford Lewis due process and thus has caused Lewis to miss his entire senior year of high school football and the loss of a any potential football scholarships.

The lawsuit was filed on July 2, 2021; Hall is being represented by William J. Godfrey.

Shane Thomas is the sports editor at the Valdosta Daily Times.

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